What podcasts do you subscribe to, Jesse?
Folks are always asking me about my podcast subscriptions, so I thought I’d share what I’m subscribed to right now. This varies a fair amount over time, and I get a good bit of variety using Huffduffer, which allows me to create an Instapaper-like podcast feed of audio I find on the web, but these are the standbys.
The MaxFun Podcasts
I usually listen to Bullseye before it’s broadcast to check for editing errors and to provide our editor Nick with feedback. I check in from time to time on Jordan, Jesse, Go! and Judge John Hodgman, as well, but not every week, because, well, I’ve heard them before.
I love listening to My Brother My Brother & Me and Stop Podcasting Yourself, our two affiliate shows. I find I listen to them in different moods. Stop Podcasting Yourself is so calm and Canadian, I find it comforting. MBMBaM is a bit louder and more brash - I find it invigorating. Both are absolutely brilliant programs, and it’s an honor to be associated with them.
But you don’t want to see my plugs for the shows I’m affiliated with.
I used to listen to Roman Mars’ first show, Invisible Ink, on KALW in San Francisco. He’s a brilliant guy, and a gifted distiller of information. This show is about design, in the broad sense, and in ten minutes or so, it always leaves me with a great story and a compelling insight into a subject that fascinates me. One of the shows I listen to the moment it hits my phone.
The Age of Persuasion / Under the Influence
Terry O’Reilly is a veteran radio advertising creative director, and The Age of Persuasion is his fascinating show about the history of advertising. It’s lively, funny (in a dad kind of way) and absolutely vital to understanding the way ads shape our lives. It’s also, as you would expect, expertly crafted. It’s just transformed into a new show about the present and future of advertising called Under the Influence, which starts next month. (Terry O’Reilly on TSOYA)
The Best Show on WFMU
I don’t have time to listen to all of every episode of The Best Show on WFMU (which, if you’re wondering, is Three Hours of Mirth, Music and Mayhem), but it keeps me company on long car rides and I check in regularly with my friend Tom Scharpling and his friends from all over the world.
The Best Show is difficult to explain, but if you’ve ever read David Foster Wallace’s essay about AM radio jocks, you could almost understand Tom Scharpling as an extended riff on that essay. It’s sort of an extended game of “who is the real Tom?” punctuated with brilliant comedy routines and jokes about rock music that I don’t get. It’s a wonderful world. (Tom Scharpling & Jon Wurster on TSOYA)
The podcast is formatted really poorly and is full of unlabeled reruns and really gets on my nerves, but Terry Gross and Dave Davies are the best in the business. Only downside is when they book guests that we’ve spent months trying and eventually failing to book and then I’m upset all day.
Good Food is a local food show, produced by KCRW in Santa Monica. Evan Kleiman, the host, has all of the absurd enthusiasm that made The Delicious Dish so funny on SNL, but she’s also a pretty sharp tack and really knows her stuff. It also features regular segments with recent Sound of Young America guest Jonathan Gold, who I think is a national treasure (and certainly an LA treasure). It’s interesting, reasonably democratic, and doesn’t have too much wine talk. This is a show I always like to have on hand for a pleasant diversion.
How Was Your Week
Julie Klausner, the host of How Was Your Week, is really different from me. She is very East Coast. Very lady-like. Very Jewish. Very into gay stuff. I am none of these things.
However, Julie is also brilliant and hilarious, and it’s always a joy to check in with her and her wonderful guests. I don’t have the camp gene, and I can’t enjoy Real Housewives or whatever, but I can laugh at Julie’s perfect descriptions of some event on the show. Her guests aren’t the guests I hear elsewhere, and her conversations are funny and interesting. And smart. Julie’s not afraid to be smart. Which is great.
In the early days of podcasting, my friend Al Madrigal briefly had a show about the San Francisco Giants. I subscribed, and I was struck at what a natural he was on mic. He’s a funny guy - a successful standup and now a regular on the Daily Show - but he has that combination of fiery opinions and real humanity that makes a great radio host.
Minivan Men is about being a dad. Not just the kids part, just the being a grown-up part. Al and his co-hosts (the very funny and fascinating comics Chris Spencer and Maz Jobrani) have a great mix of perspectives on the issue. Not stereotypical ones, but they have very different backgrounds, and a shared job (comedian), and it’s a show that I never fail to find entertaining and sometimes even a little touching.
The Memory Palace
Producer Nate DiMeo’s The Memory Palace is simply five and ten minute narratives about history. They’re short stories, essentially, scored in a style familiar to fans of This American Life and the like, about real historical occurences. Like the Nazi submariners, imprisoned in Arizona, who concocted an ingenious plan to dig their way out of prison and float to the Gulf of Mexico in a home-made boat they built underground, only to discover that the river they planned to float down was, when they got there after a year of secret digging and two days hiking through the desert, two inches deep. Cool stuff like that. Seriously: fuck nazis, right?
Never Not Funny
I’ve been subscribed to Never Not Funny since episode one, I’ve listened to every episode, and turning them on every week is like visiting with old friends. It is, actually, visiting with old friends at this point, as I’ve become good friends with Matt and Jimmy in the years they’ve been podcasting.
Jimmy Pardo is, in my opinion, a natural wonder. He’s difficult to explain, and there are those for whom he does absolutely nothing (and I don’t hold it against them), but to me he’s one of the funniest men in the world. A straight-laced man saying something silly with absolute conviction and a dead-straight face is my favorite thing, and that’s Jimmy in spades. He never fails to surprise me and I laugh my ass off at every show. Matt’s a genuinely kind guy, and very funny in his own right. His natural earnestness is a lovely foil to Jimmy’s patter.
The New Yorker Out Loud
The New Yorker Out Loud isn’t much more than a brief, well-produced conversation between New Yorker web editor Blake Eskin and a New Yorker writer about a piece in that week’s magazine. The reality, though, is that the most fascinating people in the world are New Yorker writers, with the possible exception of the people that New Yorker writers write about. Eskin is a humble and effective host, and the show has a gentle, even tone that I like a lot. I always look forward to listening to it.
On the Media
I listen to WNYC and NPR’s On the Media every week, despite a general feeling that “the news” is overrated. That’s because I think their perspective is absolutely invaluable - rather than simply following the news cycle, they try to ask what is really important. It’s actual analysis, with perspective, but also real fairness. They’re funny, genuinely insightful, and ask tough questions. I wish more of public radio was more like Brooke & Bob.
Do I really have to tell you about Radiolab? It’s stories, mostly about science, always about Big Questions. Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich argue. Yes, they’re really like that. Yes, they’re really wonderful and brilliant in real life. Yes, it was so very deserving of that MacArthur and every award it’s ever won.
Shields & Brooks
I used to love listening to The Newshour as a radio show on KQED in San Francisco. I most missed the astute political analysis of Mark Shields and David Brooks. I grew up watching Shields and Paul Gigot with my dad, and while the thought of being a political junkie exhausts me, I appreciate the reasoned and reasonable opinions of these two brilliant guys. I wish more people disagreed as fascinatingly and amicably as these dudes. And I also love Jim Lehrer’s segues. God I love Jim Lehrer’s segues.
Superego is an improvised sketch comedy show produced by some short-form improv guys out of LA, including Matt Gourley, who edits Judge John Hodgman. It is one of the craziest things you’ll ever hear. Rarely does a sketch have a beginning middle and end, or even a premise. Often it is just funny words and names. Overall, though, it’s HILARIOUS.
This American Life
I love the semi-improvised stories about life in a rural midwestern town where the mere mention of traits associated with certain religions provoke howling peals of laughter from an apparently developmentally disabled audience. Or perhaps I’m thinking of a different show.
Elvis Mitchell has some odd quirks as an interviewer, not least of which is asking his guests “tell me what your movie is about.” (Really, Elvis? You can’t just summarize it quickly and ask them something interesting?) What I love about his interviews, though, is that he has genuine insights into his guests’ work. Real insights. Sometimes ones that are revelations to the guests. He asks them about Theme. He asks them about technique. It’s not just, “what was it like working with XXX.”
Sometimes the guests are odd (really? the Entourage guy?), but when I need inspiration from a great artist like Werner Herzog or need inspiration to ask real questions about work instead of puff questions looking for anecdotes, I love The Treatment.
WTF with Marc Maron
Marc’s show is now one of the most popular in the world, and I’m proud to be part of the team that’s brought it to public radio.
You Look Nice Today and A History of the World in 100 Objects (all time favorites, no longer in production), The Meditation Podcast Episode 6, Falling Asleep (useful for napping), Throwing Shade (brand new! hilarious!), The Bugle (so great! in jeopardy!), Sklarbro Country (sports!), Roderick on the Line (Merlin! Roderick!), Reasonable Discussions (all the AV Club you can handle!), Studio 360 (the arts!).